Tags: AirAsia | plane | crash | deaths

AirAsia Debris Hunt Slowed by Weather, Six Bodies Recovered

Tuesday, 30 December 2014 10:40 PM

Search crews looking for debris from the crashed AirAsia Bhd. jetliner were hindered by adverse weather, preventing Indonesian authorities from deploying ships and divers to look for the plane’s black boxes.

Searchers recovered three more bodies, including a female flight attendant, from the wreckage site of Flight 8501, while 17 helicopters are readying to assist recovery efforts, F.H. Bambang Sulistyo, head of the national search and rescue agency Basarnas, said today in Jakarta. Ships and divers are waiting for the weather to improve to begin operations.

Sixty seven divers are on standby to scour the wreckage site of the Airbus Group NV A320 plane for fuselage and the black boxes that may answer what doomed the 162 people on the plane. The cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders are essential to piecing together what happened in the six minutes between the time the pilot asked the control tower for permission to deviate from the flight path and when the jet dropped off radar contact.

The aircraft went missing Dec. 28 en route to Singapore from the central Indonesian city of Surabaya. Search crews found objects including what appears to be an emergency door as well as submerged items resembling plane parts, Sulistyo said yesterday. Two female bodies and one male body were retrieved yesterday. No mention was made of survivors.

“It wasn’t a controlled ditching,” said Paul Hayes, safety director at London-based aviation consulting company Ascend Worldwide Ltd. “That’s clear from the finding of bodies that don’t have life jackets on.”

The crash site is in an area around Pangkalan Bun, about 600 miles southeast of Singapore. Water in the area is shallow, at 25 meters to 30 meters deep.

The black boxes of the A320 aircraft, which are actually encased in bright orange to facilitate their retrieval, are waterproof, fortified and designed to emit an electronic signal underwater for 30 days to help searchers find them. No pings have been detected, Indonesia’s Air Force said yesterday.

“Basarnas is concentrating on securing the flight data recorder,” Sulistyo said.

Family members who gathered at Surabaya airport broke into tears and anguished wails yesterday as authorities said the debris found was from QZ8501.

It’s the third high-profile incident involving a carrier in Asia this year, raising safety concerns in one of the fastest-growing aviation markets in the world. AirAsia is the biggest customer by units of the A320, a workhorse airliner that’s used by hundreds of carriers around the world.

“We have 1,000 flights a day and until we have the investigation we cannot make any assumptions as to what went wrong,” AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes told reporters yesterday. “All I can say is the weather in Southeast Asia is very bad at the moment.”

The Java Sea covers about 320,000 square kilometers, bordered by the Indonesian islands of Borneo to the north and Java to the south.

“There’s no doubt they’ll recover the data boxes,” said Peter Marosszeky, a former air accident investigator who lectures at the University of New South Wales. “They know when it went down and about where.”

It took almost two years for investigators to recover the data recorders from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean after an Air France plane went down en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in 2009.

Nothing has been recovered from Malaysian Airline System Bhd.’s Flight 370 that disappeared March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing carrying 239 people. As a result, much about that jet’s mysterious change of course remains unknown.

The AirAsia plane vanished off radars after the pilot requested a higher altitude because of storm clouds in the flight path. The last signal from the plane was between the city of Pontianak on Borneo and Tanjung Pandan.

The black boxes could answer questions for families who wonder what happened, provide insight to the industry about what causes accidents and prompt changes to practices or new technologies.

Losing the AirAsia plane caps the worst year for air-passenger fatalities since 2010. The AirAsia pilots didn’t send a distress signal, drawing comparisons with MH370. The hunt continues for that plane, the longest search for a passenger jet in modern aviation history.

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Search crews looking for debris from the crashed AirAsia Bhd. jetliner were hindered by adverse weather, preventing Indonesian authorities from deploying ships and divers to look for the plane's black boxes.Searchers recovered three more bodies, including a female flight...
AirAsia, plane, crash, deaths
Tuesday, 30 December 2014 10:40 PM
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